I think it's been forgotten that when a baby is born, the mother is also born. Motherhood shouldn't begin as something a woman got through, something forced upon her, or something that happened to her; it should be something she experiences, feels, and becomes. A truly momentous life changing day should not be turned into a day that is remembered with guilt, anger, resentment, and sadness. That is no way to feel as a new mother. Unfortunately, for a growing number of women that is exactly what they are feeling, especially when the birth did not go like she hoped and planned that it would. The feelings can range from a little disappointment to full blown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Post Partum Depression (PPD).
The days and weeks following a traumatic birth experience can be the loneliest of times, even if one is surrounded by friends and family "ohh-ing" and "ahh-ing" over an adorable baby. No one sees mom sitting in the corner, no one notices this change that has happened within her...to her. Sure, she puts on her big smiling face and tells everyone how great it is to finally be holding her baby in her arms after weeks of waiting and yes, it is the cutest baby she has ever seen. What she doesn't share is how badly it hurts to be sitting up, how she is afraid to get up and walk to the bathroom because she knows it's going to take every ounce of strength in her body, how she cringes every time her baby wakes up in the middle of the night because it means moving her sore and scarred body, or how disappointed she is that she didn't have the experience she imagined. No, she doesn't mention any of it because she has learned her lesson. She has learned that when she expresses these things that she is told to be happy that her baby is healthy, that she is lucky this wasn't 100 years ago because she would have died, that a C-section is no big deal because so-and-so from work, church, down the street, family, friend had one and is just fine. This new mom is forced to keep her feelings to herself because everyone tells her that anything less than over-the-moon excited means that she is ungrateful and doesn't really love her baby. So mom is forced to lie awake in the middle of the night, when she should be sleeping before the baby wakes up again, and let her tears flow down her cheek while silently sobbing so she won't wake her baby or exhausted partner; that's the one time when the only one around to judge her is herself.
There is so much guilt over not giving her child the gentle entrance into the world she imagined of baby resting on her warm chest while she wraps her arms around him tight; instead, baby is brought into a world of bright lights, loud noises, and cold, gloved hands. She's angry that her doctor lied to her, or that she was misinformed, or that she had no other options. Resentment builds against those she loves because maybe they didn't support her or they don't understand, and worst of all there are moments when she blames the baby. This new mom feels saddest that she could ever, for even a moment, blame the baby and then believes that it's her: she didn't try hard enough or know enough, and maybe she's just not good enough. Motherhood is hard, even with an easy transition, but these extra thoughts make it feel downright impossible. With every, "Is he eating enough?", "pooping enough?", "why won't he sleep?", the women who survived her entrance into motherhood can find a way to blame herself. With every decision made, there is second guessing.
This is what it feels like to be in the mind of a mother whose entrance into motherhood was a traumatic one -something she got through. These mothers love their babies so much that they willingly laid down on a table and had someone cut their body open. This mother needs someone in her corner and I don't care if it's her best friend, partner, mother, ICAN group, or a professional. I hope that anyone who has been through this can find comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone and I hope those who have never experienced birth trauma open their eyes to how real and debilitating it is. All these moms want is a little understanding and compassion, maybe even a little time to think about herself and her feelings, without being criticized for it. The only thing this women deserves to be told is how amazing she is and how lucky her child is to have her as a mother.